Mestizo high school senior shows resilience amid COVID-19

Story by ALISON TANNER

Blossoms are blooming. The sun is shining. Temperatures are rising. Utah has welcomed a beautiful, hopeful spring. Although the familiarity of this shifting season has arrived, there’s no denying that there is a different feeling this year. 

Coronavirus has struck the nation and the world like a lightning bolt. It appears that no one is exempt from some sort of sacrifice or challenge. 

Parks are closed. Roads are sparse. Schools everywhere have transitioned online. Healthcare workers tirelessly tend to patients. Small businesses are holding on by a thread. People are losing jobs. Events are being cancelled seemingly every day. Those being mourned, must be celebrated with what has now been coined as “digital funerals.”

Everything happened so fast that the transition has been difficult for many. Lupita Galvez Zamora, a senior at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, was told repeatedly by teachers and leaders that there wasn’t anything to worry about. But the school was shut down a week later.

“I really envisioned my senior year being so memorable and important, but it’s like it’s been taken away from me,” Zamora said in a video call. 

During what was supposed to be Zamora’s spring break, teachers began to add coursework online for students. Without a proper system of online communication, expectations weren’t clear. This resulted in students missing assignments and having more homework than they realized owing to the change, including unanticipated due dates during their break.

Luckily, Zamora had a close network of friends who helped each other communicate about their new digital reality and responsibilities. 

She added that many of her classmates are very upset, feeling deprived of their senior year experiences and upcoming graduation. “It is what it is,” Zamora said. “We have to accept it and move forward.”

lupita galvez

Lupita graduates from the Salt Lake Center for Science Education this spring. Image courtesy of Lupita Galvez Zamora.

She, too, is making sacrifices. Zamora said her family was planning a large party with friends and family to celebrate her high school graduation. Being a first-generation student, she emphasized the monumental occasion this was in her life, as well as what it meant to her parents.

Despite these setbacks, Zamora has chosen to look toward the future with hope and is reflecting on her positive experiences to help cope with her disappointments. 

During her middle school years, Zamora was involved with the Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective, an organization dedicated to removing barriers for minority groups to pursue higher education. She began participating full-time once she was in high school. Her experiences with MAA and the people she has met have inspired her to be more involved in her community and learn relevant information about issues that are often ignored or forgotten. 

“They’ve taught me so many things. It’s something that I’ve cherished and has shaped the direction I want my education to go,” Zamora said.

Though the details of the future are uncertain for many, Zamora has been accepted to the University of Utah and plans on attending soon. 

“Listening to people’s stories is so important,” Zamora said. Showing an interest in social justice, political science, ethnic studies and the possibility of law school in the future, she knows that whatever she pursues, she’ll always be an advocate for her community.